black october

Fifteen years ago yesterday, we were going to have an easy sort of day. We left our warehouse and drove to Apple main campus for breakfast and to see some people, with the thought that we’d have a light day. And then, the power went out in Cupertino. It ended with handwritten airbills, multiple FedEx runs, an attempt to get them to hold the plane, and me sitting on the curb next to the other contractor having a smoke and wondering if our badges would work in the morning.

It was the beginning of Black October. More management turnover, more chaos, a bunch of guys in a foxhole trying to hammer out a process and a plan and a methodology while the plane was plummeting to the earth. Me, dragging pallets of shipping containers to build a wall to escape behind while I started just cooking laptops, making myself the laptop specialist (where I would be for almost a year and a half and the backup for it thereafter). Just go down the list every day: here are the prioritized orders, get as far as you can. Lather, rinse, repeat until Thanksgiving.

Those guys are scattered to the winds now. The two I was closest to moved away from NorCal altogether before long, and I haven’t seen either of them in a good five years or more. Apple itself seems like something that happened in a dream, and to be honest, the most vividly remembered part of it is the first part, the contractor phase that ended in a public house with all the guys clapping me on the back as my boss and director handed me a white folder clearly labeled “THE OFFER”.

That’s the only full time job I’ve ever had that didn’t involve some kind of shady hookup or someone interceding on my behalf. I came to California with nothing but a resume and hope, put my name online in a couple of places, and got a call from a recruiter who didn’t know me from Adam and delivered me to Infinite Loop scarce days before I would have started on a contract all the way in South San Francisco. As a result, I can say I’ve never had a commute in the Valley longer than ten miles.

It was an extremely liminal moment. New job, new town, new state, new apartment, wedding coming in April, plus the chaos of an election season and the unreality of the Boston Red Sox on the path to the most amazing comeback since Our Lord rolled away the stone on the third day. The new car plan was on hold. I was still paying for XM radio and not really playing as much KFOG as I’d anticipated. Steel-toed boots and cargo shorts were work wear well into November. And Cal football was the most important sport in the house and it wasn’t even remotely close.

I know I point back to life in DC a lot, but that first couple years in California, before the dull moment and then the depression, are a sort of touchstone as well. They represent the one time that I took the reins of a fresh start and succeeded in a new workplace on my own without having to have someone hold the door for me. I was able to get in, prove myself, and achieve and accomplish something that came with rewards and got better as time went on.

Wouldn’t that be something.

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